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Invictus

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.




Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia about the poem:

Invictus" is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903).

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Background

At the age of 12, Henley fell victim to tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later, the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly below the knee. It was amputated when he was 25. In 1875, he wrote the "Invictus" poem from a hospital bed. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until his death at the age of 53.

Publication history

The poem was written in 1875 and first published in 1888 in Henley's Book of Verses, where it was the fourth in a series of poems entitled Life and Death (Echoes). It originally bore no title: early printings contained only the dedication To R. T. H. B.—a reference to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce (1846–1899), a successful Scottish flour merchant and baker who was also a literary patron. The familiar title "Invictus" (Latin for "unconquered") was added by Arthur Quiller-Couch when he included the poem in The Oxford Book Of English Verse (1900).

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Influence

In the 1945 film Kings Row, Parris Mitchell, a psychiatrist played by Robert Cummings, recites part of Invictus to his friend Drake McHugh, played by Ronald Reagan, before revealing to Drake that his legs were unnecessarily amputated by a cruel doctor. While incarcerated on Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela recited the poem to other prisoners and was empowered by its message of self mastery. In the 2009 movie Invictus, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, the poem is referenced several times. It becomes the central inspirational gift from Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, to Springbok rugby team captain François Pienaar, played by Matt Damon, in advance of the post-apartheid Rugby World Cup hosted in 1995 by South Africa and won by the underdog Springboks.

-- Footnote numbers were removed for readability


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